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Local Marketing Blog

Respond to 1-Star Reviews to Build Affinity with Your Prospects

If you have ever received a 1-star review, you know it can be a galling experience, especially if the review is unfair or outright misrepresentative. The good news is, the occasional negative review is not a problem if you have already established your reputation with a corpus of positive reviews from your best customers. Your prospects expect to see a few 1-star reviews because they understand it is impossible to please everyone. In fact, a large percentage of your prospective customers actively seek out your 1-star reviews. What matters is how you respond. If handled correctly, a 1-star review can be a unique opportunity to get in front of your prospects and show them who you are.

Almost every review forum on the web allows business owners to publish a response to a review. Typically, these responses are displayed as an addendum just below the review body. So long as the response you write is short, you can pretty much guarantee it will be read by your prospects, many of whom will be in the late stages of the buying cycle. Too often, I see business owners with polished marketing copy on their websites writing defensive or impersonal responses to 1-star reviews — the one place you can pretty much guarantee your prospects are actually reading.

You can find excellent guidelines on the web for responding to negative reviews but here is a recap of some of the critical steps you should take to put your best foot forward and truly leverage your online reputation:

1. Address the Reviewer Directly

In all likelihood, the reviewer will never read the response, but you should still address the response to the reviewers themselves. Your prospects want to see you in action. Show them how you do business.

2. Take the High Road

Negative reviews are often unfair. It is tough seeing a review written about you in which the facts are wrong and the person is just generally being unreasonable. But these are the best reviews for demonstrating professionalism.

3. Don’t “Set the Record Straight”

As tempting as it may be to state your side of the story, resist the temptation to counter each claim with an explanation. Right or wrong, explanations look like excuses, and you are always better served by owning the bad experience without necessarily conceding their specific points.

4. Make a Gesture

The best gestures offer to fix the problem. Consider inviting the reviewer to call you personally so you can work out the problem together. Also, try to make your gesture the last sentence of your response, so readers will leave the review with a positive impression.

5. Keep it Short

The response you write to a negative review will be read earnestly by your prospects, but only when you keep it short. Also, you want to move the readers along to the powerful gesture at the end of your response.

Reputation marketing is about leveraging transparency. It takes too much time and energy to bury bad reviews, and ultimately it does not work. Instead of dwelling on 1-star reviews, focus on getting great reviews from your best customers, and just respond thoughtfully to any tough reviews that do surface. A good response should corroborate the positive things being written about you. The only real defense is a strong offense, and at the end of the day, it feels better to focus on the positive.


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  1. This is very good concise information on how to deal with negative reviews. I remind myself all the time in regards to #3, not trying to set the record straight. Thank you for bringing this topic to our collective attention again!

    1. Thanks, Fred.
      #3 is definitely the toughest. I have seen some incredible responses from our clients across the country, and I think the key is finding a way to assure your prospects without appearing defensive.

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